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Emotion and adventure rule DIFF’s ‘In Focus’  on French cinema

Wed Nov 18,2009

Films exploring the history of European cinema, childhood melancholy, social dilemmas and an aviation adventure set in the Sahara Desert are among the eclectic mix of French films – five features and five shorts - on show in the ‘In Focus’ segment of DIFF 2009.

Sheila Whitaker, Director – International Programme, DIFF, said this year’s selection of French cinema for ‘In Focus’ highlights the creative flourish that marks the nation’s cinema. “French films have been a constant source of inspiration for emerging talent as well as cinema veterans. The nuances and creativity associated with French cinema have often set the direction for global film-making trends. Some of the world’s all-time greatest films have come from France and DIFF is bringing a vivid showcase of French cinema this year.”

The creative high of French cinema meets Arab cinema’s talent powerhouse, Omar Sharif, in J’ai Oublié de te Dire (I Forgot To Tell You), directed by Laurent Vinas-Raymond. Sharif packs a tour-de-force performance in this sweet-hearted, poignant drama chronicling the life of a young girl Marie, who is freed from prison and moves to France in the hope of starting a new life.
A major part of it is a handsome local mechanic Baptiste, who is more than willing to show Marie around town. Equally important is the grandfatherly figure of Jaume, who begins instructing Marie in the finer things in life – art, sculpture and cookery amongst them. As Marie and Jaume bond ever deeper, their friendship develops in a manner that is both heartwarming and inspiring.
Agnès Varda, one of France’s key directors and pioneer of styles that shaped the ‘new wave’ of the late 50s, presents a fascinating documentary of her life and history of European cinema in Les Plages D’Agnès (The Beaches of Agnès). While her experience is rooted in a golden past, the 81-year-old legendary auteur is an enthusiastic advocate of digital technology.

A pioneer of the style and techniques that shaped the French New Wave of the late 50s (and one of the most fascinating, original and talented individuals it produced) to the enthusiastic advocate of digital technology, she reveals both a fascinating life and a history of European cinema.

Debut director Mona Achache’s brings Le Hérisson, an oddball French film that resonates with charm and originality. The film depicts the story of a disenchanted 11-year-old Paloma, who decides to kill herself on her 12th birthday. As her appointment with death approaches, she meets some kindred spirits, in her building’s grumpy concierge, and an enigmatic, elegant neighbour, who inspire to question her pessimistic outlook.

Drugs, death and pregnancy collide in Francois Ozon’s Le Refuge (The Refuge), a thought-provoking study of an alienated young woman, Mousse, who discovers she is pregnant after her boyfriend’s death from a drug overdose. She flees to the solitude of the countryside, where she is visited by Louis’s brother Paul, and Ozon provides an ending that is both unexpected and poignant. Director Ozon is well-known for his investigations into the tangled thicket of human emotion.

Le Dernier Vol (The Last Flight) by director Karim Dridi, features Marie, an adventurous young pilot, who sets out to track down her aviator lover who has vanished in the Sahara Desert. This romantic drama was inspired by real-life flying couple Bill Lancaster and ‘Chubbie’ Millar, whose aviation exploits in the 1920s and 30s led to Lancaster’s mysterious death in 1933. Marion Cotillard plays Marie, Lancaster’s wilful and stubborn flying partner and lover, who flies solo into the desert to try and find him.

The five shorts are an impressive collection of powerful story-telling. La Raison De L’autre (Another’s Reason), directed by Foued Mansour, narrates the story of Caro, who works in a benefits office in France dealing with a daily parade of genuine claimants and wily fraudsters. When she discovers one of her claimants is cheating, she decides to follow him, one dark night. Director May Bouhada’s L’ Année De L’Algérie (The Year of Algeria) follows North African actors auditioning for a historical drama. The cast includes young actors recently graduated from drama school. As student actors, they’ve they’ve already had to play on their physical appearance and cultural background.  But individually, they all have their own stories to tell. In La Marche Des Crabes (The Walking Crabs), director Hafid Aboulahyane portrays the story of a paraplegic man who falls in love with an unmarried mother.  Both traumatized by their lives, risk love and happiness, in spite of all the obstacles raised by society and their families. Director Mohamed Zemaich tells us the story of an Arabic man who well-meaningly returns a forgotten bag to its owner, unaware that it contains a bomb in the short, Bomba, and Joyce Nashawati directs La Morsure (The Bite), a story set in a Parisian park.  A woman is waiting for her lover, while the little girl she is taking care of is playing. When the young man arrives, the little girl decides to explore the park.

Now in its sixth year, DIFF 2009 is held in association with Dubai Studio City and will be held from December 9 to 16.  Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Pearl, Emirates Airline and Madinat Jumeirah are the principal sponsors of DIFF and the event is supported by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).

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